Oregon Christmas tree harvest under way

Oregon Christmas tree harvest under way

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by Joe Smith

kgw.com

Posted on November 15, 2012 at 6:11 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 15 at 8:18 PM

WELCHES, Ore. - For Oregon's 775 Christmas tree growers, this is the most wonderful time of the year.

Harvest is under way and growers are ready to share the joy of the season with the world.
 
And there is another reason to celebrate, This year's crop is one of the best and the industry is on the comeback, the best present of all.

With a snow-draped Mt. Hood as a backdrop, it doesn't get more holiday than this.

"This years crop in terms of quality is probably one of the best we've seen," said McKenzie "Ken" Cook, owner of McKenzie farms in Welches, Oregon. 

Despite a dry summer, wet fall and freezing weather, Christmas is a 37-day celebration of harvest.

"They're plump, they are as beautiful as they've even been," said Cook.

McKenzie thrives this time of year -- his tree farm is the second-largest in the country.

He'll harvest close to 750,000 trees this year. Overseas shipments are on their way to Hawaii, Guam and Asia.

"During the season, we'll ship 900 trucks. And today we'll probably send 30-35 trucks out." he said.

With drill team precision, the truck are loaded. Each is carrying some 800 Douglas firs, the most popular plus other varieties.

Helping the harvest is a helicopter, which hauls 8,000-10,000 trees a day from the fields to a dropoff site at three loads per minute.

"The good news is, the consumer is going to buy a tree at the same price as last year," noted Cook.

That's not such great news for growers. It's been a difficult few years for the industry. There is an oversupply of trees, which is keeping prices down, while production and shipping costs are up.

"It cost $9 to grow a Christmas tree, it costs $4 or $5 to harvest a Christmas tree and when you're selling that Christmas tree for $13 to $14, your breaking even, " explained Cook.

McKenzie thinks balance of supply and demand will be back within two years.

Despite the setbacks, Oregon tops the nation for trees and sales, adding $110 million back into the economy.

Growers will be cutting and shipping until December 15th.

 

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